Remember your observation notes should provide the following detailed information about the child:
- child’s age,
- physical appearance,
- the setting, and
- any other important background information.
You should observe the child a minimum of 5 hours. Make sure you DO NOT use the child's real name in your observations. Always use a pseudo name for course assignments.
You will use your observations to help write your narrative. When submitting your observations for the course please make sure they are typed so that they are legible for your instructor. This will help them provide feedback to you.
A qualitative observation is one in which you simply write down what you see using the anecdotal note format listed below.
A quantitative observation is one in which you will use some type of checklist to assess a child's skills. This can be a checklist that you create and/or one that you find on the web. A great choice of a checklist would be an Ounce Assessment and/or work sampling assessment depending on the age of the child. Below you will find some resources on finding checklists for this portion of the case study. If you are interested in using Ounce or Work Sampling, please see your program director for a copy.
For both qualitative and quantitative observations, you will only write down what your see and hear. Do not interpret your observation notes. Remain objective versus being subjective.
An example of an objective statement would be the following: "Johnny stacked three blocks vertically on top of a classroom table." or "When prompted by his teacher Johnny wrote his name but omitted the two N's in his name."
An example of a subjective statement would be the following: "Johnny is happy because he was able to play with the block." or "Johnny omitted the two N's in his name on purpose."
Jack is 7 years old and in mainstream school.
He has difficulties understanding language, particularly:
- Long and complex sentences
- Certain words, particularly relating to the language of time and position words such as in front, behind, next to
- Difficulty understanding the meaning of new words and making links between words, for example knowing that ‘short’ and ‘tall’ are opposites
- Poor listening skills and a tendency to become distracted
He has difficulties using language and so:
- He struggles to find the right words to say what he wants
- He uses shorter sentences than other children of his age, and cannot always make himself understood
- He enjoys socialising at playtime but does not always understand the rules of games therefore does not always join in in the right way
When Jack is in the classroom, he sits near to the front of the class, facing the teacher. This helps him to focus his attention on the teacher, and it helps her to see when he does not understand the task. The teacher uses frequent gesture when teaching to help keep Jack focussed and to give him extra clues about what he is learning. If she wants him to respond to a question or instruction, the teacher always says his name first so that he knows to listen.
Jack is able to understand the routines of the day by following the visual timetable that is up in the classroom. The visual timetable is a timetable of pictures and words that clearly shows the events of the day in the order that they will happen. Each part can be moved so that any changes in the day can be pointed out.
Jack knows what the targets for learning are as they are clearly shown on the whiteboard. The teaching assistant (TA) in the classroom checks with Jack that he has understood the task before he begins, and if new vocabulary is introduced the TA will reinforce the learning by showing Jack with pictures or drawings if needed. Sometimes the TA will teach Jack the new topic words before the lesson to help him understand. It is also sometimes necessary for her to give Jack instructions again when he has not understood, using different words or simpler sentences. She is encouraging him to be more independent by telling the teacher when he doesn’t understand. All the children in the class have a ‘learning buddy’, someone that they talk with during certain tasks. Staff have given careful consideration about who to pair Jack with, and closely monitor how they get on.
Jack is given some time to plan his work, for example during a literacy task when the children are asked to create a story. He uses a story planning sheet to help him make sure that he includes all the important parts (one of a range of resources that he uses to support his learning). The TA understands the aspects of the task that will be difficult for Jack and is aware of the different ways that she can help Jack when needed. These are shared with others that might support him at other times.
Staff on duty at playtime are aware that Jack and his friends sometimes need help to resolve difficulties. They have knowledge about the amount of information that Jack can understand and they help him to take part in the game by supporting him to join in in the right way by, for example, pointing out that he needs to wait before he can have his turn. There are games available that do not rely on communication to be successful. The school operates a buddy system, and older children are encouraged to help the younger pupils like Jack during playtime if they see them having difficulties.